2010 Germans!!?? Buy 2008 Clemens Busch!

6/29/11 -

The 2010s from Germany are starting to roll out and the vintage certainly appears to be a minefield. Tasting through the new releases we've found a few outstanding wines but more often than not we felt blindsided by wines that just weren't quite to our taste. What to do, what to do? Why not shift the focus to one of our absolute favorite producers of iconoclastic Mosel Riesling, all from vintages that are a little more to our taste? Thus we want to draw attention to what ought to be the re-emergence of Clemens Busch!

Why does Clemens still appear to be such a misunderstood figure? The arbiters of "Riesling Taste" just don't seem as interested in his work as we are, lovers of natural wine haven't seemed to embrace him as much as one would expect and he's caused a stir in all sorts of German wine circles. The wines are certainly not of the prevailing Mosel paradigm, but it's hard to imagine a more suitable use for the oft-abused word "traditional" than to describe Busch. Which tradition though? Long maceration, must oxidation, use of spontaneous yeasts, fermentation in either stainless steel tank or fuder, organic since 1984 with recent experiments with biodynamics, etc: Clemens is as natural as wine gets on the Mosel, so the tradition he's in line with goes back many generations. He wants his wines to last for decades, so he does add some minimal amounts of sulfur (very little compared to his neighbors, some of whom think he's absolutely nuts). Among his most grievous of sins appears to be the fact that he doesn't intentionally block malolactic fermentation in his wines: not current practice for the region but symbolic of his non-interventionist leanings.

In the Spring of 2010 Clemens visited New York and spent some time with those of us who care about these sorts of things. Perhaps you met the man and tasted some of his 2007s, a vintage that has been hyped to all hell due to its richness and impressive levels of extract. Busch's wines can sometimes tend toward the extreme end of the spectrum and his 2007s emphasized the vintage's inherent burly qualities with some of the wines clocking in as high as 14.5 degrees. While this is reflective of his hands-off spirit, we understand that not everyone is looking for a Riesling with that kind of horsepower. That's where 2008 comes in: a restrained with beautiful delicacy and racy acidity, it's just about the perfect year for someone like Clemens whose already broad style of winemaking expertly complements the lean vintage to reach a perfect medium point. Busch’s 2008s are all about elegance and purity: clearly delineated flavors, dry but expressive, not harsh and austere at all.

All of the wines listed below are dry and we want to draw particular attention to one, a particular bottle you simply will not find anywhere else. The 2008 Felsterrasse comes from a tiny parcel of 50+ year-old vines on the steep, crumbly, gray slate just at the top of the Falkenlay parcel (within the Marienburg, along with almost all of Busch’s other holdings). Only a halbfuder (500 liters) was made in 2008 and just 5 cases of that came into the US, all to Chambers Street. This wine could technically be labeled as Grosses Gewachs but was not because in previous vintages it has not always fermented completely dry. Although it lacks this noble title, it certainly belongs in a class with what the Germans are now considering their top of the line whites, and it has impressed us much more than many of the GGs we’ve come across.

One important aspect that separates Riesling from many of its fellow vins de garde is its relative accessibility in its youth as well as with age. It’s definitely worth picking up a few Felsterrasse and tracking their evolution over the next 15 years as it’s drinking beautifully right now, especially after a bit of exposure to air and there’s almost unlimited potential for development over the years. Come by the shop on Saturday, July 16th and we'll be pouring some of Busch's lovely 08s as part of our foray into this year's Summer of Riesling festivities. We're very excited to be sharing these and look forward to seeing you from 4 to 7pm. —jfr

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